I am finishing my cancer treatment soon. What can I expect in regards to follow-up care?

After treatment, choose a doctor to provide follow-up care to check for reoccurrence or for problems that may develop due to treatment. This may be your oncologist, a medical specialist or your family doctor. Your choice might be limited or decided by your insurance in some cases.

According to the National Cancer Institute, people who have been treated for cancer usually see the doctor every 3 or 4 months for the first 2 to 3 years, and then once or twice each year after that. Because every person is different, ask your doctor to suggest a follow-up plan on your first visit.

Follow-up visits usually involve discussion of any signs or symptoms you might have noticed, any change in family medical history, as well as some tests. The type and number of tests depends on your type of cancer and treatment.

It is important to communicate with your doctor about problems, concerns, pain or other physical problems you are experiencing.

Ask your doctor about long-term effects of treatment, warning signs of reoccurrence, new research and tests taken during follow-up care. If you do not understand what your doctor is saying, keep asking until you do. You are your best advocate so ask for what you need. It is also important to understand your insurance coverage and if there are restrictions.

Follow-up care is important and if you move or change doctors it is vital that you keep track of your medical history. The NCI suggests keeping copies of your medical records (there may be a charge) including:

  • The type of cancer you were treated for
  • Diagnosed date
  • Treatment details
  • Lab, pathology, and x-ray reports
  • Contact information for everyone involved in your health care
  • Problems that occurred after treatment
  • Information on supportive care you have received

For more information contact Courtney Britton, librarian at Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge at (225) 927-2273, cbritton@cancerservices.org , or visit the Education Center at 550 Lobdell Ave., Baton Rouge.

ä Internet Resources:

Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment – NCI: cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment

Factsheet: Follow Up Care after Cancer Treatment – NCI: cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Therapy/followup

This column is presented as a service by Cancer Services of Greater Baton Rouge, a United Way affiliate.